Bus Stop Lighter

Had the weirdest bus stop encounter just a moment ago. There were about four of us standing at the bus stop. One of the people had a cigarette but no lighter. He went to the first guy, and he didn't have one. He turned to me, and I shook my head. And the last guy had a lighter.

So he had his lit cigarette, and was walking back to the bench. But somehow my response didn't rub him the right way. So he walked up to me. His first line was "if I cut me, or I cut him, or I cut you -- we all bleed...?" 

And I'm giving him a blank look while holding one of my earphones in my hand. I just shrug somewhat indifferently.  But he goes on. Hitting a lot of topics. From "we're in this together" (I assume solidity in minority groups) to "I learned martial arts. I look like a thug but I'm not a banger." to "I come from both worlds. That thug world, and the world of money. I got money. I know." to "Do you know martial arts?" 

I mostly looked at him blankly. Giving short answers. Like "No I don't know martial arts." 

That's when he responds with "You know don't your people?!"

Now there's more back-and-forth. (Well, mostly forth than back.) But the weird thing was my main thought wasn't that he was crazy. But that the guy was actually pretty intelligent and astute. Sure, his opinions were packaged in a shouty-rambling way. But they were sorta like Jaden Smith tweets. Non sequitur, but there's a foundation there. 

So I was being diffuse and withholding answers and conversation. Mostly deflecting when I could. 

At some point, the bus rolled up. So he started walking back to the bench. And then suddenly he stops and turns. "You do know your people. You been playin'. You're playin' me." 

In that moment, I was stunned. Like "Shit. You called it straight." And then I got on the bus, and went home. 

Superposition of Truths

The stock market accepts a broad range of businesses and companies. They all do and produce and move different things at different scales from tiny to large. And yet the metric of which they are judged always seems to be just one: quarterly revenue. 

I grew up in the tail-end of nostalgic television that espoused 50s values. One of which was this incredibly mundane scene where a kid is taught by his father about how to buy stocks. The dad (probably with a pipe. My child self forgets the details) tells the kid really simple advice: invest in the long-term companies like GE because over the time, they'll grow and you'll reap some of the profits. GE is stable, secure, and will last.

Still a monetary metric, but at least it a different time scale.

But anyhoos, I'm so curious about non-monetary metrics. We're getting hints of it. Environmentalism. (Tesla.) Brand equity. (Apple, I suppose. Polar bears drinking Coke.) Social justice. (Rainbow Oreos.) Attention. (SEO ROI...shudder.) From the gut, it'd be nice to start recognize these things more, and less quarterly growth. 

Not that I want a stock market of brand equity. Mostly because I have no idea what that means.

But I'm curious about room for the layered judgement of a business. (Or anything or anyone really.) A stock market that is a super-position of simultaneous metrics. 

I don't want this sequential tally where "eyeballs" is rolled into the "advertising budget" that is factored into "gains and losses matrix" that eventually is judged on quarterly revenue. 

Rather an aggregate assessment that accepts that revenue was low but the social good was impactful. That a gesture invested now was to seed a future. And not in the sense of a loan returning interest. But in that the oceans have a better chance of staying an ocean rather than an acid bath. 

I don't know what I'm imagining is really articulated well. It feels like i'm trying to describe a 4D space with a 2D shapes and a broken pencil. But anyhoos, "superposition of truths" still sounds cool.

Tiny Doors

So it seems people of the past used to be smaller. You look at historical buildings, and old furnishings, and they're like small. And it seems comical to try to walk through their houses, and to sit in their chairs.

And then I think about aliens. When we reach that Star Trek phase of humanity. And we all inter-mix and interact with aliens of all shapes and sizes. 

How will we design our buildings? How do we build doors? How do we keep costs reasonable while allowing for a maximum of sizes and beings access? 

I have no answers. Just fun to think about.

Ass Hardening

At some point, I became very loosey-goosey. I would look at the many potential futures, and I would make my peace with many of them. And in doing so, I would be able to be flexible, and let the cards play out. 

The outcome would be okay regardless because I would have thought of multiple goals that different futures could satisfy. The result would dictate the goal. Always winning. 

But as of late, I'm thinking about this. I'm wondering if that's my true nature. I truly dislike confrontation, and being wrong even more.

However, I have to acknowledge that I have been setting a goal beforehand. To switch goals afterwards is a mental conceit. A self-trickery. 

So the question is now can I force the outcome more? Can I steer the sequence more concretely, more decisively? 

More importantly, do I have the emotional fortitude to pursue this way-of-life? The foundation to be wrong, and then pick up the pieces? To not hit my goal, and to admit that? 

I have a feeling I have to go from loosey-goosey to something harder. I may even have to appear to be hard ass sometimes to get what I think is right. So moving forward, am I capable of ass hardening? Or will I be a loose-goose ass?

Telescope-colored glasses

I abuse the phrase "rose-colored glasses." That analogy that describes people thinking things are better off than the reality of the situation. 

I stretch that metaphor into awkward contortions. Like "Telescope-colored glasses," which make no semantic sense to anyone but me. 

To me, it refers my worldview that always looks forward. Future-oriented. Things get done and finished, but I'm already looking to the next task that needs to get done. It's like wearing locomotive-colored glasses. 

And for most part, it works in my favor. I can help a lot of people and projects with these glasses. It  lets people prepare more thoroughly, and smooths over rough spots. It's like mortar-colored glasses. 

But where's its lacking is to let people they're appreciated in the moment. The present versus the future. It's hard for me to pause to celebrate a victory or task completed. It can seem like I'm wearing cold-colored glasses. 

So a thing I have to work on is to learn when to take off these pairs of glasses, and see things in the now. To take stock of the situation, and give the proper time to acknowledge everyone. 

Like a pair of human-colored glasses.

Digital Parental Watch

I've had my Apple watch for seven weeks now. I know this because it tracks that. I know I'm terrible at consistency because it tracks that too. It also lowered my calorie goal after finding out how terrible I was at it. 

But itself isn't erratic. It's consistently tracking me as long as I care enough to put on the watch. And if that was a human, I would have yelled at them for that by now. I would have sneered at its presence. I would have scoffed at the weekly reports leaving them purposely unread on my desk. I would have blithely said excuses about my schedule. 

This is a watch though. It wasn't programmed to care about that. It just keeps doing what it was scheduled to do. It wasn't aware about my four-hour drive, so it reminded me four times to stand up while traveling 80 mph. (Occasionally, 85…90?) 

Anyhoos, hindsight but I realized that there's a lot of mental gymnastics for me to have kept going like this. I have to be like the watch to keep using the watch in earnest. That every notification, and beep, and reminder is just that. It isn't an admonishment of failure, the game isn't over. Sure I didn't burn all 400 calories. But I had some work to do, or some leisure. 

It's a trade-off, but what the watch lets me do is to make trade-offs while being well-informed. To be aware of the choices I'm making. Whereas before, I would justify or scold myself based on my mood and day. The net balance never squared with the costs. 

Now as long as I have the confidence in my decisions, I can also feel good that I made those decisions in good faith. 

Thanks for having my back, mom…I mean, watch.

Ants & Sticks

One of my favorite podcast moments is an interview with an entomologist. She studied ants. 

And for the most parts, ants are spectacular. One of the special "super-organisms" that entire colony exhibits creature-like characteristics. The group over the individual.

What's fascinating is that the individual ant itself isn't that grand. It's pretty simple creature with a set number of tasks. Find food, dig tunnels, attack enemies, and clean up. 

The last one is where the entomologist comes in.

She recounts a day where she was watching an ant just outside the mouth of the nest. The ant had noticed a twig near the entrance. So the ant, by instinct, started to move the twig away. And it was difficult. It struggled to carry even just a few inches. But it did the task, and then moved on. 

Well, after a few moments, a different ant walked by, and noticed the same twig. It triggered the same instinct to move the twig. So it started dragging and pulling this twig. Again, very difficult.

Once finished, that ant moved on. But by then, the last ant noticed the twig, and to it--it felt that the twig was too near the entrance. So it started dragging the twig back. 

Well after all this, guess what the other ant did? 

The two ants would spend the better part of the day just pushing the twig back-and-forth. With the same furor.  And the same motivation. And the same good intentions to be useful.

This is how I feel about US politics. 


Cultural Superposition

I was in college when it even occurred to me that different countries would cover different historical events differently.

It was a "duh" moment the second it went from my ear to my brain. But I hadn't ever considered it until it was told to me.

The idea what multiple histories and multiple perspectives existed simultaneously is an idea that I get conceptually. But in practice, it's difficult hold in my mind. 

And yet, this difficult framework is something we all have to grapple with now. The internet exposes these differences too clearly within one space. The global economy knits us too closely together to be able to ignore it anymore. 

Harder still beyond the recognition of this is the reconciliation. How do you deal with opposing cultures when you no longer use the label of "The Other?"

It's easy to cheer for the Romans for defeating the "barbarians." Forgetting that the initial conquest had displaced those "barbarians" from their way-of-life.

Native Americans = Savages. Islam = Terrorists. Women = Inferior. Millennials = Spoiled Children.

The "othering" of another group of people makes it easy to justify your culture. But it's harder and harder to shut everyone out when your world is no longer just your town or city.

If you buy bananas from South America, or shirts made in China...that "Other" is now a person literally keeping you warm. But how to reconcile their conflicting narrative? How to be empathic to all 7.4 billion humans simultaneously? It's crippling to try.

But here we are. In a cultural superposition where all are strangers and at the same part of the same community. Where your food is both nostalgic and exotic.  Your ideas are common and foreign. Your etiquette both refined and savage. What do we do about this?